The Land of Dreams by Vidar Sundstøl

Bogged down in unnecessary detail…

😦 😦

the land of dreamsWhen a young Norwegian man is brutally murdered on the shores of Lake Superior, his body is discovered by Lance Hansen, a US Forest Service cop. As the investigation gets underway, suspicion quickly falls on the victim’s friend and companion. Lance is on the sidelines of the investigation, but realises he saw something that night that casts a different light over what may have happened. Will he put his family at risk by telling what he suspects?

The first chapter or two of this novel are very effective – Lance’s discovery of the body is dramatic and chilling. However, we are very soon bogged down in a mass of local and family history, as Lance, an amateur genealogist, begins to wonder if this is the first murder committed in the area. There is an attempt to draw parallels between the current crime and an event over a century ago, when Norwegians were beginning to populate this area of Minnesota. This drags the whole book down to a crawl, as we are given endless and repetitive stories about the early days of the settlers and details of the family history of almost every character, while there is very little actual investigation of the murder. Suffice it to say that, since the investigators soon find DNA at the scene, it ought to have been possible to wrap the whole thing up fairly quickly, but for reasons unbeknownst to this reader (who suspects that the writer got himself bogged down in an inconsistency that he hoped the reader wouldn’t spot) the police don’t seem to bother to try to match the DNA to that of their suspects.

Vidar Sundstøl
Vidar Sundstøl

Between the never-ending Minnesotan history, the in-depth look at the minutiae of daily life, including what everyone eats and where they eat it, and Lance’s constant agonising over whether he should put family loyalty over duty, I found this a real slog (though I could possibly set myself up in business as a tour guide of the region now). It is well enough written in a technical sense and the translation by Tiina Nunally is seamless, but I’m afraid it is simply dull. And worse yet – it’s the first of a trilogy so the crime is left unresolved at the end. I’m afraid I care so little about the outcome, I will not be reading the other two books. I find it frankly amazing that this book won an award for best Norwegian crime novel of the year in 2008 – I can only assume it was a bad year…

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, University of Minnesota Press.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

20 thoughts on “The Land of Dreams by Vidar Sundstøl

  1. 😆 A great ripping review! It must have been a bad year, but the professor thinks that the cuisine study would have been neat. Have to laugh about the tour guide thingy… 😆

    Aren’t ripios fun to write?

    I think FEF should have been in the novel. I’m sure she would have suggested to match the DNA, and then the mystery would have been over, and then the author would have been cranky.

    The professor likes his picture. Full of attitude.

  2. FictionFan – Hmmm… Methinks you have spared my TBR,, for which thanks very much. I truly appreciate your candor, and I completely agree with you about too much detail. And it doesn’t help matters (for me) that the obvious DNA connection…isn’t to the police *sigh*

    • It felt like he wanted to write a history of the Norwegian connection to Minnesota and just threw in a crime to hang the history round. But the DNA thing was just sloppy plotting…

    • Another one that shows that awards are no guide. I certainly couldn’t face the idea of ploughing through another 2 books just to find out if Lance is right or not…

    • That’s the joy of reading – two people can react quite differently to the same book. I’m afraid my view of this one hasn’t softened since I finished it. I just found it too repetitive and felt he’d have been better with some kind of lit-fic premise, rather than a crime that he couldn’t be bothered to have a proper investigation of.

      That’s a great photo – the sky is amazing! Thanks for the link. 🙂

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